Pepsi’s Choice: Refreshing?,
Can brands meet their marketing needs and positively impact the world? With marketers and communities both facing unique challenges, many brands are experimenting in their own creative ways to answer this question. In my next few posts, I’ll highlight some of these examples and try to assess their effectiveness.
First up, the Pepsi Refresh Project. Back in January, their marketing team made the bold move to pull $20 million from their Super Bowl television spending and direct those dollars instead toward a social media platform to fund small grants for community projects submitted and voted upon by everyday citizens. Earlier this month, Pepsi released this video update:
Refreshing Communites from Coast to Coast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdrF7qeQDdU
This is inspiring stuff. Pepsi’s dollars are having a real impact and nonprofits are quickly learning (and in some cases innovating) new ways to engage supporters. So, how are they doing? Let’s try applying the four “rules of the road” offered by Mark McKinney in his earlier post, “From Cause to Collaboration.” I’ll use a 1-5 scale (1=low, 5=high).
- Be Real: 4. To the extent that Pepsi has a brand purpose around refreshment (“every Pepsi refreshes the world”),” you could argue the Refresh Project expresses this purpose in a deeper way. While it may still be difficult for some to understand why a soda company would do this, that’s partially what makes it work. The altruistic and democratic nature of the initiative makes it difficult to seriously question Pepsi’s motivations, though they are obviously doing a good job of showcasing the brand and leveraging as a marketing platform.
- Be Relevant: 2. It’s hard to argue that Pepsi has any relevant expertise to solve the broad range of challenges that specific communities face (despite previous attempts, the brand lacks the credibility to address health-related issues). In fact, much of the hands-on management and support of funded projects is actually handled by the staff of GOOD Magazine.
- Crowdsource Your Cause: 5. The Refresh Project has essentially created an entire social media infrastructure for change agents across America. In doing so, Pepsi has shown what is possible when a brand not only trusts people enough to choose what matters to them, but to tangibly invest in their ideas.
- Make Your Cause Your Partner: 3. Pepsi is essentially “partnering” with hundreds of causes. I wouldn’t describe these as deep partnerships since they’re providing monetary support and leaning on GOOD Magazine to help with implementation. However, it’s important to remember that Pepsi is playing on a new field and because they’ve helped shape it, they are probably learning constantly.
As with all of the examples I’ll feature, perhaps the most important question is how these efforts fit within a brand’s overall thinking and ongoing strategy. In the case of Pepsi, there are strong signs that the Refresh Project is only the first act in a much larger play. In fact, Bonin Bough, global director of digital and social media at Pepsi, has stated, “This program has to be about a movement and not about a moment.” For more, I recommend this interview with CMO Jill Beraud.